Tag Archives: PCs

Beyond ‘Fred’: Ancient Persian Names

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It’s often difficult to come up with names for characters. I’ve seen enough variations on Tolkein names to last me a lifetime, not to mention those based on movie characters and other SF/Fantasy series. But where can you go to find a name that’s different, but not overly so? How about from another culture, historical or otherwise?

Beyond ‘Fred’ is an occasional series that provides lists of names from real-world cultures, both past and present. In other posts, I’ve covered everything from Italian to Ancient Egyptian. This time, we’re covering Persian names, ancient and newer.

An important note: I’m listing names that I think sound cool for rpg game purposes. I’m not worrying about historical accuracy. If you’re looking for a name for historical re-enactment, please check out my list of sources at the end of this post. I also don’t usually cover name meanings, but again, most of my sources list those. Finally, I tend to stay away from names that are currently in common usage. I figure if you were interested in those, you wouldn’t be looking at this list. 😉

[Photo courtesy of hsivonen via Flickr Creative Commons]

Ancient Persian Names

Male

  • Aêtava
  • Airyu
  • Bêndva
  • Byarshan
  • Chamrav
  • Dahâka
  • Drâdha
  • Datis
  • Erezavant
  • Erezrâspa
  • Frâchithra
  • Frânya
  • Gaevani
  • Gaomant
  • Hanghaurvah
  • Hvova
  • Isvant
  • Jannara
  • Jishti
  • Kaeva
  • Karesna
  • Mathravaka
  • Mazdayasna
  • Nanarasti
  • Neremyazdana
  • Paeshata
  • Parshinta
  • Ravant
  • Sadhanah
  • Sâma
  • Stivant
  • Taurvati
  • Tura
  • Usan
  • Uxshan
  • Vâgerezan
  • Varâza
  • Vyâtana
  • Xexes
  • Xshtavay
  • Yima
  • Zairita
  • Zavan

Female

  • Ahoo
  • Amytis
  • Atosa
  • Banafsheh
  • Dughdhô-Vâ
  • Eredat-Fedhrî
  • Franghâd
  • Freni
  • Ghazal
  • Humayâ
  • Hutaosâ
  • Hvôv
  • Jagkrut
  • Kanukâ
  • Khoshfarberan
  • Lila
  • Narges
  • Narpestan
  • Paêsanghanû
  • Pouruchista
  • Sarvenaz
  • Thriti
  • Tûshnâmatay
  • Urûdhayant
  • Ushtavaitî
  • Uxshentî
  • Vadhut
  • Vanghu-Fedhrî
  • Zairichi
  • Zeheratzade

Newer Persian Names (19th century)

Male

  • Abadi
  • Adarvan
  • ANOSH
  • Bahadur
  • Beramji
  • Burzin
  • Chaxshnush
  • Cirrus
  • Dadar
  • Delir
  • Dorabji
  • Edalji
  • Erach
  • Erachsha
  • Fardunji
  • Firdous
  • Freortis
  • Gashtaham
  • Goberu
  • Govad
  • Hardar
  • Hirji
  • Hutan
  • Isatvastra
  • Ishvat
  • Izadyar
  • Jahandar
  • Javidan
  • Jehangir
  • Kai
  • Kavas
  • Kurush
  • Mahdat
  • Mervanji
  • Mohor
  • Nadarsha
  • Nevazar
  • Nima
  • Nush
  • Omid
  • Orvadasp
  • Palash
  • Pishkar
  • Puladvand
  • Raham
  • Rashna
  • Rushad
  • Sahi
  • Shahen
  • Surin
  • Tahmtan
  • Temulji
  • Tizuarshti
  • Ukarji
  • Ushah
  • Ushedarmah
  • Valash
  • Varshasb
  • Vaspar
  • Wehzan
  • Yadgar
  • Yazad
  • Yima
  • Zal
  • Zand
  • Zirak
  • Zurvan

Female

  • Abanhir
  • Aimai
  • Arzu
  • Avabai
  • Bahar
  • Banubai
  • Behruz
  • Chaman
  • Cheherazad
  • Deldar
  • Dinaz
  • Dinbanu
  • Farida
  • Franak
  • Friyana
  • Gohar
  • Gulbai
  • Gilshan
  • Homa
  • Hormazbanu
  • Hutoxi
  • Iranbanu
  • Irandokht
  • Jahanaray
  • Jarbai
  • Javaneh
  • Kaniz
  • Khubrui
  • Khushnam
  • Lalagul
  • Laleh
  • Lilya
  • Mahzarin
  • Meherbai
  • Morvarid
  • Narenj
  • Nezhat
  • Nilufer
  • Omid
  • Oranous
  • Orkideh
  • Parendi
  • Parvin
  • Puyendeh
  • Rambanu
  • Roshni
  • Ruhae
  • Samannaz
  • Shirin
  • Sudabeh
  • Tehmina
  • Thrity
  • Tishtar
  • Ushtavaity
  • Vahbiz
  • Vira
  • Virbanu
  • Yasmin
  • Yazdin
  • Yazdindokht
  • Zarin
  • Zer
  • Zoish

Sources

Other ‘Beyond Fred’ Posts

Beyond ‘Fred’: Ancient Greek Names for Games

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Greek writing from ancient greek red figure po...

Greek writing from ancient greek red figure pottery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking for a character name that sounds distinctive but doesn’t look like it came out of a random name generator? How about one from Ancient Greece? Often the best names come from real life. Beyond ‘Fred’ is an occasional series that provides lists of names from real-world cultures, both past and present. In other posts, I’ve covered everything from Italian to Ancient Egyptian.

An important note: I’m listing names that I think sound cool for rpg game purposes. I’m not worrying about historical accuracy. If you’re looking for a name for historical re-enactment, please check out my list of sources at the end of this post. I also don’t usually cover name meanings, but again, most of my sources list those. Finally, I tend to stay away from names that are currently in common usage. I figure if you were interested in those, you wouldn’t be looking at this list 😉

Ancient Greek Names

Male

  • Abantes
  • Agapetos
  • Akakios
  • Aktis
  • Alexios
  • Bakis
  • Basileios
  • Bion
  • Burrhus
  • Daetor
  • Dareios
  • Diodoros
  • Diokles
  • Dryas
  • Echemmon
  • Eirenaios
  • Epiktetos
  • Eustorgios
  • Eyrx
  • Galenos
  • Gennadios
  • Glykon
  • Gurgos
  • Harpagos
  • Hesiodos
  • Hyakinthos
  • Hylas
  • Iasos
  • Iphitus
  • Isidoros
  • Itheus
  • Kadmos
  • Kallias
  • Karpos
  • Kyrios
  • Laomedon
  • Linos
  • Loxias
  • Lykos
  • Makarios
  • Melampos
  • Metrophanes
  • Myron
  • Narkissos
  • Nereus
  • Nikias
  • Nyctinus
  • Okytos
  • Olympos
  • Origenes
  • Orthaeus
  • Pammon
  • Pankratios
  • Phaidros
  • Philokrates
  • Sabyllos
  • Seleukos
  • Skiron
  • Solon
  • Talaemenes
  • Thales
  • Timaios
  • Tros
  • Xanthos
  • Xenokrates
  • Xenon
  • Xuthos
  • Zagreus
  • Zenodoros
  • Zopyros
  • Zosimus

Female

  • Achaia
  • Agape
  • Aikaterine
  • Anthousa
  • Basiane
  • Berenike
  • Bito
  • Briseis
  • Damaris
  • Delias
  • Demetria
  • Drosis
  • Eirene
  • Euantha
  • Eudokia
  • Euthymia
  • Evadne
  • Gaiane
  • Galatea
  • Galene
  • Glyke
  • Haidee
  • Hagne
  • Helike
  • Hypatia
  • Iaera
  • Ino
  • Isidora
  • Issa
  • Kallistrate
  • Kallixeina
  • Korinna
  • Kynna
  • Lais
  • Lasthena
  • Ligeia
  • Lyra
  • Megara
  • Melitta
  • Mykale
  • Myrrine
  • Nemerte
  • Nesaea
  • Nikaia
  • Nysas
  • Oitane
  • Olympias
  • Oreithyia
  • Otonia
  • Pales
  • Pelagia
  • Phile
  • Pylia
  • Raisa
  • Rhene
  • Rhode
  • Rhodope
  • Sebasteia
  • Semele
  • Sostrate
  • Sotera
  • Thalassa
  • Thais
  • Timo
  • Tryphosa
  • Xanthe
  • Xanthippe
  • Xene
  • Xenia
  • Zenobia
  • Zita
  • Zosime
  • Zoe

Hints on pronunciation

  • Always pronounce the final “e”– it makes an sound like “eh”.
  • “Ch” is always pronounced with a “k” sound.
  • “Th” is pronounced smoothly, like in “this”

Sources

Other Beyond ‘Fred’ Posts:

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27 Surefire Ways to Get Kicked Out of a Game

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Awhile back I did a post on 21 Surefire Ways to Loose Players. With this being Player Month here at Evil Machinations, I thought it time to do a post for the players. Even the most die-hard GMs will change sides of the table, even if it’s a pick-up game at a con. You’d think we’d make the perfect players, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, all too often GMs-turned-PCs are the most difficult players in a group. While orginially aimed at GMs, even players who’ve never sat behind the GM screen should enjoy this list as well.

[Photo courtesy of House of Sims via Flickr Creative Commons 2.0 license]

  1. Repeatedly arrive extremely late to a game session without calling to let people know.
  2. Repeatedly miss a game session after assuring the GM you’d be there.
  3. Refuse to read the rules of the system you’re playing.
  4. Hog the spotlight.
  5. Give long lectures on how the game you run is better than this one.
  6. Tell the GM what he’s doing wrong and offer frequent unsolicited advice on how to run the way you would.
  7. Recite a Monty Python or Princess Bride quote for everything that happens during the game.
  8. Insist on roleplaying every moment of a supply run.
  9. Turn everything said into a sexual innuendo.
  10. Make overt sexual advances to every eligable PC in the party.
  11. Make overt sexual advances to every eligable player in the group.
  12. Argue for every advantage you can squeeze out of the system, even if it takes an hour to win a +1 bonus.
  13. Insist that the GM look up an obscure rule in the middle of combat.
  14. Expect everything to go your way because the GM is your significant other.
  15. Loudly and frequently complain about how your favorite rules system is better than the one the GM is currently using.
  16. Insist that the group run your favorite system, especially if they don’t want to change.
  17. Constantly brag about your über-character in another game and how she would wipe the floor in this game.
  18. Refuse to get dice of your own and insist on borrowing someone else’s.
  19. Continuously forget your character sheet so you can make up numbers on the fly.
  20. Play while drunk (or high)–unless your entire group enjoys drinking to excess while gaming.
  21. Deliberately and/or constantly ignore the rules of the host who’s house you’re playing in (such as putting your feet on the coffee table, not using a coaster, etc.)
  22. Torment your host’s pet(s).
  23. Play computer games while you’re roleplaying
  24. Repeatedly charm members of your own party.
  25. Repeatedly steal from members of your own party.
  26. Insist on going off on your own on a regular basis.
  27. Claim every useful bit of treasure as your own.

How about you? What have I forgotten that really raises your hackles? Please share!

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What’s My Motivation?

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motivation-chartYour GM picked out the adventure, did all of the background work, fleshed out the NPCs, balanced treasure and other rewards. Now it’s finally time to run the adventure, it’s up to the GM to find a way to motivate your character. Right?

[Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/philippeboukobza/ / CC BY 2.0]

Wrong.

True, the GM will most likely provide you a motivation for going on the adventure, but you can help by providing your own motivation for your character.

While “My character wouldn’t do that” can be a legitimate concern (I’m a “method actor”-style player, myself), it’s not helpful. If you try hard enough, there’s usually some way you can provide your character with a motivation to undertake the adventure.

Character History

Even if you don’t have a detailed backstory for your character, you can find a way to work something about this adventure into your character’s history. In fact, it’s probably easier to do it without a detailed history. But even if you’ve written down information for every month of your character’s life, you can still usually find a way to work a motivation for the adventure in there.

Perhaps you stumbled across this dungeon when you were growing up and always wondered what was down there that was so dangerous your parents wouldn’t let you explore it. Or your now-deceased mother had been an adventurer but had fled from this dungeon before exploring it thoroughly and you want to find out what could make a generally fearless woman flee in terror.

These are simply suggestions; you’ll do much better to find some reason yourself. The point is, that it doesn’t have to be a driving passion to provide motivation. Simple curiosity can be enough. Maybe the owner owes you some money and if you can’t get the money, you’re going to take payment in goods of equal value. Or perhaps you want to prove yourself a better adventurer than your mother who’s shadow you’ve been in since you started your career.

Character Relationships

That brings us to our next type of motivation: other people and the relationships your character has with them. It could be your favorite uncle asked you to check out the city sewers to find proof of the giant cybernetic rats and cockroaches he’s always said live down there. Maybe your familiar or a favorite pet wandered into the Mayor’s Mansion and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Or maybe, just maybe, your brother dared you to go into the spooky cave.

Again, the reasons don’t have to be deep of life-changing or part of The Big Picture. It can be petty concerns. The important thing is to have a reason that will motivate you to undertake the adventure. It could even be something simply as the party’s cleric said “Please” when he asked you to come along. Of course, if you want to have this adventure affect your character deeply, go for it.

Character Goals

This brings us to our last set of motivations: your character’s goals. Maybe you want to collect one of every type of potion in the world. Or maybe you need some  scrapings from the wall to to mix the exact shade of grey paint to finish your current project. See, even here you don’t need grandiose ideas — simple ones will do as long as it gets your character moving.

Of course,  you’ll want to clear your motivation with your GM. If he hears, for instance, that you think there may be potions for your collection, then he’ll most likely go out of his way to put one in there as a reward.  Maybe you just want to complete your rock collection and the last type of rock you need is said to exist in this lich-controlled forest. placed in there.

Brainstorming or “Mind-Mapping” can help you find a reason. You can get special software for that, but I find good ol’ pen and paper work great for the job. If you’re really stuck, you might try having the GM other person you trust over for a brainstorming party. If something doesn’t come to you immediately, keep trying until you come up with something you can play. You’ll find the game much more enjoyable.

Other Player Month Posts:

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Livin’ the Good Life: More Random Background Events for PCs

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A roulette wheel.
Image via Wikipedia

Stumped for a background for your newest character? Why not try some randomly generated ones? Last week, we covered the steps for generating a random background event and the tables for bad things that could happen to your character. Today, we’re covering the good things. Check out last week’s post for full details.

Life Path Good Events

  1. Gain a local ally. You’ve gained an ally who has a fair amount of influence or clout in the city, town or village you’re in.
  2. Strike it rich. You come into a sizable sum of money.  Whether you won it gambling, received it as payment for services rendered or simply found it, the money is yours–free and clear. No strings. It’s not enough to retire on, but it can certainly keep in you in some comfort for 1d10 months.
  3. Big job. You perform a job that brings not only financial reward, but also some recognition. Whether your face is widely known in the streets or to an elite few is up to you. In either case, you gain a positive boost to your reputation.
  4. Find a weaponsmaster. You find a skilled warrior/fighter whose abilities exceed your own and who’s willing to teach you. You improve one of your combat-related skills or add a weapon proficiency. The GM will tell you how many improvement points you gain.
  5. Find a skills master. You find someone who can help you either improve a non-combat skill you already have or learn a new one at a beginning level. The GM will tell you how many improvement points you gain.
  6. Powerful favor. Someone in political power in your game world owes you a favor. Maybe you ran an important errand or maybe you just babysat his favorite nephew. In any case, you will be able to call in one favor from this person. The GM will decide whether or not the favor you’re asking for is equitable with the one you received.
  7. Friends in low places. You make some friends with a local group or gang. It could be the local thieves guild or it could be a teenage gang of misfits. In either case, you can call on them for one small favor a month. This does cut both ways and the gang will expect you to return small favors should they need them. These should be easy favors that won’t hurt your reputation or your bank account.
  8. Friend on the force. You make a friend on the local constabulary or town guard. You can call on your friend for information or minor favors once a month. Again, this is two-way street and you friend can also call on you for the same.
  9. Friends in high places. You make a friend to has some measure of clout. Perhaps you rescued a local prince or duke or perhaps the princess has simply taken a liking to you. You can call on your friend for a small favor once a month, but don’t push it.
  10. Gain an asset. You find or are given a very useful or minor magic item (GM’s choice). However you come by it, it’s yours with no repercussions or strings attached.

Of course, you can also use these for “down time” events in-between adventures.

Look for next week when we’ll begin a “Player Month”, with articles for the players in your group.

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Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune: Random Background Events for PCs

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cartoon about simple choicesSometimes a good background is hard to find. Usually I have no trouble coming up with a full-fledged past for my characters, complete with NPCs, subtle plot hooks, and flaws ready-made for the GM to exploit. Usually, I hand the GM a six-page character questionnaire loaded with personality quirks and background events.

Usually.

A few months back, my fiance (I’ll call him “Jay”) started a 3.5 D&D game and I sat down to make a new character. I’m currently playing a bard/sorcerer in another D&D game and wanted to try something different. I thought playing a “blaster caster” would be a lot of fun, so I built my character as a half-even sorcerer/rogue. I pulled out my well-used list of character questions and sat down to fill it out.

Nothing.

I couldn’t think of anything really interesting to build this character around. All of my ideas seemed trite and over-used. Six months of play later, and I still didn’t have any background to this character.

Now, I know I can play the character without any background material. But I’ve always been a “method actor” type roleplayer and I find it really hard to get enthused about a character that’s just stats and abilities. That’s when I remembered Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0 and its lifepath tables. If I couldn’t think up a background for my character, I could roll one up!

[Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/draconianrain/ / CC BY 2.0]

The LifePath

Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0’s life path is a very thorough. It involves rolling on several charts to determine what the character’s personality is like as well as what’s happened to him in his background. I’ve simplified the process greatly and changed the options to fit a fantasy game setting.

First, determine how many life events you want to roll for. As a limitation, I decided I could stop rolling for events when I wanted to, but that I couldn’t remove any results already obtained. I developed two tables: one for bad events and one for good. To determine which table to roll on for each event, I rolled a d6. If it came up even, then I rolled for a good event. If the result was odd, I rolled for a bad event. Of course, you can also pick some thing rather than rolling for it at random.

Bad Events

  1. Money loss. You’ve incurred a major debt. Bill collectors track you wherever you go and, depending on the size of your debt, your lender may have hired someone who will take drastic measures to recover the money.
  2. Hostage or Imprisonment. You’re being held captive–either in prison or perhaps as a hostage–Roll 1d10 to find out how many months you’re imprisoned.
  3. Illness or Poisoning. You’ve contracted a serious illness or were poisoned. Roll 1d10 to determine how many months you need to recuperate.
  4. Betrayal. You’ve been betrayed by someone you trusted. Roll 1d10 on the table below:
    1-3 Your betrayer is blackmailing you
    4-6 A dirty secret from your past has been exposed
    8-10 You lost a friend, lover, ally, or job because your betrayer spread rumors about you (your choice whether or not they’re true.
  5. Accident. You were in a terrible accident. Roll 1d10 on the table below:
    1-2 You were disfigured or lost a body part
    3-6 You were under medical care for 1d10 months
    7-8 You lost 1d10 months of memory due to trauma
    9-10 You have frequent and terrible nightmares where you relive the event over and over
  6. Death. Someone close to you was killed. Roll 1d10 on the table below.
    1-5 The death was accidental
    6-8 Your loved one was murdered by an unknown assailant
    9-10 Your loved one was murdered by someone you know
  7. False Accusation. You were framed for something you didn’t do. Roll 1d10 on the table below to find out what you were accused of:
    1-3 Theft
    4-5 Cowardice
    6-8 Murder
    9 Rape or “taking advantage” of someone (like seducing the farmer’s daughter and getting her pregnant)
    10 Treason
  8. On the Run. You’re being hunted by someone in a position of authority. Maybe you committed a crime, maybe you were framed for a crime, or maybe you don’t even know why you’re being hunted. Roll 1d10 on the table below to find out who’s hunting you.
    1-3 Local constabulary or town watch
    4-6 The king’s forces
    7-8 Private guards
    9-10 Bounty hunters
  9. Hunted. You’re on the run from some organization who wants you bad for some reason. They may not want to kill you, but they certainly don’t have your best interests at heart. Roll 1d10 on the table below to determine who’s hunting you.
    1 The local assassins’ guild
    2-3 The local thieves’ guild
    4-6 A merchant’s guild or craft guild
    7-8 A slaver’s guild or gang
    9-10 A powerful local clan
  10. Mental incapacitation. You’re sufforing from something that’s causing you to not be fully in control of yourself and your behavior. Roll 1d10 on the table below to determine what the problem is.
    1-3 Mind control or possession. You’ve been possessed or mentally controlled by a powerful entity.
    4-7 Mental breakdown. Some kind of trauma has left you with severe anxiety attacks and maybe even a phobia.
    8-10 Severe mental illness. Your choice.

That’s enough for one day. I’ll post the good events next week.

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Change Your Hat, Change Your Character

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hatsI myself have 12 hats, and each one represents a different personality.  Why just be yourself?
–Margaret Atwood

I love props. I’m constantly making props for my games, from fake newspaper articles to treasure maps. Sure, you can tell your players what their characters fine, but then they’re seeing the prop through your eyes. You can’t help but put a spin on their findings as you describe them. Having an actual prop the players can handle allows them to form their own opinions without any “coloration” by the GM.

(Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/dspender/ / CC BY 2.0)

Why use props?

Props can also help you get into character. This is what I love most about them. Each of my characters has (PCs and important NPCs) has something that identifies them.  Not only does this prop help distinguish one character from another, the type of prop chosen says something about the character who uses it.

The  main props I use with my PCs are costumes. Every one of the characters I play has a “costume” that comes straight out of my wardrobe. Now, that doesn’t mean I come to the gaming table looking like a refugee from the local Renaissance Faire (though that can certainly be a lot of fun once in a while). Instead, I find something in my wardrobe that reminds me of my character.

For Galen, my 14th level human bard/sorcerer, it’s a purple tank top with a green shirt over it, his patron’s colors. On the other hand, Feynan, my half-elven rogue/sorcerer with a penchant for lightening, requires an orange tank-top. Rafe, a classic WoD mage, wears a black leather motorcycle jacket, while Naiya, a Tremere vampire always sports an antique rhinestone necklace. The one thing all these costumes have in common is that none of them cause anyone to look oddly at me when I stop at the grocery store for some snacks. Having a prop (or clothing article) helps me get into character before the game even starts.

Props as a GM tool

I find props immensely valuable as a GM tool, as well. Now, I don’t worry about a prop for every Tom, Dick an Haley in my game; only the major NPCs get props. But having a prop for each character allows for two things: 1) my players know immediately who they’re talking to and 2) it helps me keep my NPCs straight and helps keep me from getting sidetracked. Having something in my hand or on me reminds me to stay focused on that one character.

Types of good props

Hats make great props for NPCs because they’re generally quick and easy to put on and take off. Small trinkets, particularly if they inspire a physical mannerism, also work really well. Perhaps your NPC likes to stack coins, play with Chinese harmony balls, or roll dice. Maybe he always has a toothpick in his mouth. Or maybe she carries a walking stick or cane and uses it to punctuate her speech. Or perhaps he doodles while he talks or creates origami animals.

Using props

The main point when using props is to avoid overusing them or making them so obvious they upstage the what you’re saying. Usually, a prop in use should be subtle, something the character does absent-mindedly. You want to use the prop in such a way that it helps the players remember who they’re talking to, but without causing the prop to take center stage.

Notice, though, that I said usually. Sometimes a prop is absolutely crucial to the story. If your players know that any prop you pick up when you’re speaking in character actually exists in the game, you can have an NPC play with it to bring it to the PCs attention. Or you can place it on the table in front of you and wait until someone asks about it.

Any of the techniques above can help your players (and you) feel more immersed in the game. Props are great tools for both players and GM. You can start small — pick one prop for you PC or for a major NPC. Think of a way that character would use that prop. You know you’ve really got it down when your players can tell who they’re speaking to without you having to say a single name.

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Missing You: When the GM Can’t Be There

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Players aren’t the only ones who miss the occasional game session. Every once in a while the GM gets called into work at the last moment, or his wife (or the GM herself!) goes into labor early… there are numerous reasons why a GM might have to miss a particular session.

cat-missing-youSo with a missing GM, you’re going to have to cancel the game for tonight, right?

Not necessarily. Here’s a list of ideas for your group to try the next time your GM gets hit over the head with Real Life™:

  • Run a “pick up” game. Designate someone else as GM for the night and choose another game system for a one-shot. You’ll want something with very quick character creation so you can actually get in some play time. Tales from the Floating Vagabond is a good game system for this.
  • Have an alternate campaign. The GM for a D&D game I’m currently playing in has had more than his share of Real Life™ recently. Consequently, one of the other players has started up a dungeon crawl game we play when our regular game can’t meet. In some games, you can actually set up a situation where PCs can come and go, depending on who’s available to play any particular time. Everway can be good for this, as can any town or city adventure.
  • Play a board game. Or computer game. Or whatever.
  • Have a brain-storming session. Get as many of the PCs as available and sit down to discuss your current in-game situation and make plans for the future. My players tend to do this spontaneously… when we’re out to dinner, before/after a movie, at non-gaming parties…. They’ll do it even if I’m standing right there!.
  • Have a movie night.
  • Run a “It coulda happened…” session. My players did this once when I was called into work unexpectedly. They chose someone to be the GM and, based on what they knew of the game already, ran a session of  my game without me. Everybody knew that the events of this session wouldn’t “count” — i.e. nothing that happened during this game session really occurred in game. The players loved it and I was insanely jealous that I didn’t get to play that session. :(
  • Have a back-up GM. I took this page out of Ars Magica and its “troupe-style” play. That is, the every player is both GM and PC, with the GMing duties rotating around the group. Each person is responsible for their own section of the world or game. For example, each person is in charge of a different country and takes over as GM when the group enters “their” country. This option is one you really can’t do “spur of the moment” — the game has to be set up this way from the beginning. If the regularly scheduled GM can’t make it, another GM takes over for that session.
  • Run a “day in the life of” session. Pick some very minor characters from the game, such as Bernie the Shopkeeper and his wife Ethyl, their two kids, a couple of their cousins, etc. Or the members of a local sports team, a group of masons, the employees of a business… you get the picture. Run a session that showcases their daily lives.

What does your group do when the GM can’t show? What new roleplaying twists have you experimented with and how did they turn out?

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Fred’s Missing *Again*?

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Every player has days they can’t make a game. Sometimes, a great conjunction of events happens and a player has to miss a session at the very last minute. It happens to all of us.

These aren’t the players I’m referring to.

It can be one of the most frustrating things about a running a game: having players who are chronic no-shows. My ex-husband and his brother are players like this. My ex was once 8 hours late to a game (without calling) and couldn’t figure out why everyone was mad at him. I usually found out that his brother wasn’t going to make a game when my father-in-law announced it on the way in the door for the game session itself.

Unfortunately, I’ve only found one cure for it — boot them from that game and don’t accept them into another. I don’t like to be mean. I understand real life — I’m a single parent, I work, take care of a house and deal with a chronic and sometimes dehibilitating illness. I try very hard to warn the GMs of any game I’m going to be in that I may have to “no-show” at the last minute for health reasons. But I try very hard to call and let the GM know as soon as I can. Most of my players are IT people and are frequently on-call. I have one great player who hasn’t been able to make it to character-building sessions for my new game because he’s been pulling 10 hour days at work dealing with server issues. I can work with this.

But the chronic “I just don’t feel like coming” or the person who habitually turns up 1+ hours late with no call and no explanation infuriates me. It’s rude. It’s unfair the GM who’s usually put in a lot of work for each character in the game and is basing that game on the fact that certain PC’s are going to be there. It’s unfair to the other players, especially if the MIA player is a crucial character for an upcoming encounter or situation. In my opinion, it’s a sign of supreme selfishness.

I make allowences for real life; I don’t make allowances for selfish indifference.

What Your Players Don’t Need to Know

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I’m taking a break from Meadowbrook for a few days; I don’t want this blog to become “all Meadowbrook all the time”. I’m considering starting another blog devoted to world-building that would chronicle my development of Meadowbrook and it’s surrounding world; if this is something that would interest you, please leave me a comment. Now, onto your regularly scheduled post. 😉

For years, I’ve used information as a commodity in my games. I generally run “limited information” campaigns, where I try not to give the players any more knowledge about the situation and/or world than their characters would know. This isn’t about “cheating”; I have excellent group of players who are well-skilled at separating character knowledge from player knowledge and playing accordingly. What I’ve found, though, is that when player knowledge matches character knowledge, the players can relax more. They don’t feel like they have to police themselves to stop and think Hey, would my character actually know this? before they take action.

An useful outcome of this is that information becomes its own reward. Especially when it comes to a PCs individual goals. For example: if the party does a favor for a prince, as a reward he may be able to tell them the location of the tower belonging to the evil wizard that killed their team member.  You don’t always have to give out money, treasure, spells, or what-not to your PCs. Information can be just as valuable and won’t ratchet up your PCs experience level or ability to obliterate your bad guys; this can help you keep the PCs from rising in power earlier than you’re ready for them to.

You can make choices about how secretive and hard to gain information is in your game. Do all party members know everything any other member knows? How closely do they guard their own backgrounds from the rest of their party? This can vary between one GM to the next. I’ve known many GMs who don’t like the PCs to keep secrets from one another; they feel it causes divisiveness among character who are supposed to work as a team. I err on the restrictive side: more often than not, I tightly control information in my games. I usually set up their character’s background with her player separately, then let the player decide how much information to give the others.

During the game itself, I generally give information out based on PC had access. If one or two of the PCs wander ahead and overhear a conversation between a vampire and her childe, for example, I usually take them aside or write a note (if it’s short) to describe what they hear. I then leave it up to the players to reveal the information as the characters see fit. If, on the other hand, I know that the scouting PC is going to go and immediately relate what he overheard, then I’ll go ahead and describe the conversation to the whole group, so neither the player nor the GM has to repeat themselves, particularly if the conversation is long or complicated. So it’s purely situational — think “Will the other PCs also hear this or will they know about it in the ten to fifteen minutes?” If so, it’s a lot easier to tell the whole group what transpires.

Sometimes even players will get into the limited information act. I once ran an Amber game where two of the PCs decided to marry and all of the players kept it secret for a couple of weeks, real time. They didn’t want me to find out about it beforehand so I wouldn’t have time to plan something to go wrong with the wedding. Other GMs might hate being in the dark about any aspect of their game, but I loved it.

Some games lead themselves to secrecy better than others. Amber and Vampire have secrecy as a core concept and I rigidly control the flow of information in those games. I tend to be more free with information in a D&D game, for example, but I still allow the players to determine how much of their character’s knowledge they share. It all depends on your style and preference.